WASHINGTON, DC, May 31, 2012— The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved US$6 million in grant financing by the International Development Association (IDA*) that will provide urgently-needed assistance to deal with the recently-announced crop failure. Along with the rest of the Sahelian countries of West Africa, The Gambia has suffered from inadequate and erratic rainfall in 2011.
The Gambia First Economic Governance and Reform Grant is the first in a series of two such Development Policy Grants (DPGs) covering the period 2012 to 2013.
The initiative supports the implementation of the country's Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE), which aims at improving the living conditions of the Gambian population by implementing cross-cutting reforms to diversify the economy and thereby reduce its vulnerability to external shocks.
“The full impact of the lower than expected harvest in The Gambia is now becoming apparent and the government has officially requested emergency assistance from the international community,” says Vera Songwe, World Bank Country Director for Senegal, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, and Mauritania (AFR). “The harvest is estimated to be only one-half of the average for the last five years and around 60 percent lower than last year,” concludes Songwe.
With 60 percent of the population dependent on agriculture, poverty and malnutrition are rising. This operation provides much needed financial assistance at a time when IDA has limited alternatives to extend immediate support.
In doing so, this project also tackles some of the policy reforms in agricultural policy necessary to reduce the vulnerability of this sector, through triggers for the next operation in this series.
On March 7, 2012, the government of The Gambia announced the 2011-12 crop failure, requesting an estimated US$23 million for seeds, fertilizers, and food aid. Donors have responded by pledging around US$14.5 million up until now.
The proposed operation will also help the Government to focus on continuing and deepening policy reforms areas aimed at improving public financial management, and at laying the policy groundwork for public management reforms in agriculture, education, and energy, and private participation in the telecommunications sector.
“The PAGE aims at accelerating the structural transformation of the Gambian economy,” says Songwe “To realize this objective, the government intends to gradually increase public investments in agriculture from three percent of overall expenditures in 2009 to six percent already in 2012 and at least 10 percent by the end of the PAGE period,” concludes Songwe.
The project also supports improved transparency, efficiency and accountability in public expenditure management within a prudent macroeconomic framework, and is consistent with the government's national development PAGE as well as the World Bank’s Africa Strategy.
* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing loans (called “credits”) and grants for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 81 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 108 countries. Annual commitments have increased steadily and averaged about $15 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent of commitments going to Africa.